CASABLANCA - The law to fight violence against women came into force Wednesday in Morocco after several years of civil society’s lobbying.
Law 103.13, which was adopted by the parliament in February, is a step forward in protecting women from all forms of violence, but some critics say it has several shortcomings.
Bassima Hakkaoui, Minister of the Family, Solidarity, Equality and Social Development, said that the bill “is a reference text with definitions of concepts, penal provisions, preventive measures, initiatives protection and an integrated institutional care mechanism by toughening penalties against perpetrators.”
The law encompasses all forms of violence that can be practised against women, in different contexts, whether at home, on the street, at work or elsewhere.
"The text is part of the consolidation of democracy and the achievement of parity and values of justice, in accordance with the provisions of the 2011 Constitution," said Hakkaoui.
The law defines violence against women as any action, physical or moral, based on race and causing harm to women, whether physical, moral, sexual or economic.
It criminalises sexual harassment with sentences ranging from one to six months in prison and fines of up to Dh10,000 in a bid to stop harassers in public places and on social media.
Sentences are tougher in some cases such as violence against minors and pregnant women.
However, activists and feminist movements said that the law still falls short of their expectations, arguing that it was not in line with the international norms.
The enforcement of the law comes at a time when a Moroccan teenager is accusing a group of men in her village of having kidnapped and raped her, a case that took the social media world by storm.
Some 63.3 per cent of women were physically abused in 2014, according an annual report of the National Observatory of Violence Against Women (ONVEF) released in 2016.
The report was based on statistics from several institutions such as the Ministries of Health, Justice, the National Security Directorate (DGSN) and the Royal Gendarmerie.
13,445 women in cities were victims of physical violence in 2014, with 7,962 married women, 3,444 unmarried women and 2,039 divorced women. Housewives represent 53.8% of all victims compared to 54.4% in 2013.
Sexual violence against women constitutes 9% of all types of violence suffered by Moroccan women, revealed the report based on statistics from the DGSN. 61.6% of the cases of sexual violence were committed against women aged under 30 years. 31% against women aged between 31 and 45 years and 7.3% against elderly women.